we help authors make books Mon, 06 Feb 2017 08:51:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 Writing and editing non-fiction Mon, 31 Aug 2015 02:35:56 +0000

Guest post by Kit Carstairs of The Manuscript Agency


Writing and editing non-fiction manuscripts has more in common with fiction than you may realise. Regardless of the content, it is important to draw your reader into your writing. Both fiction and non-fiction authors use the same principles to create works that are emotionally and intellectually engaging.



These fundamental principles include:

  • Point of view/voice
  • Character
  • Narrative
  • Dramatisation

 As an editor of non-fiction I look for ways to draw out the story and make the content more engaging to the reader. I will generally look at:

  • Fiction elements (structural and line-by-line edit)
  • Organisation of material (structural edit)
  • Presentation of material (diagrams, images, lists etc)


Non-fiction is content written to convey the truth (or the assumed truth) about events, people and subjects of interest to the author. Works of non-fiction are assumed to be honest and truthful in their telling, whether it be an objective or subjective recount. 

Some non-fiction texts will include elements of supposition, deduction and imagination (fiction) in order to present a comprehensive view of the person/event/topic being written about. 

Non-fiction texts often use images (photos, diagrams, sketches etc) to further illustrate their point. 

There are many different forms of non-fiction, dependent on their intended audience, as well as the author’s intentions for the work. The primary non-fiction styles, as I see them, are:

Narrative: the telling of a real life story or experience; recount of actual events through the use of storytelling elements – e.g. autobiographies, memoirs, journals.

Informational: provides facts and explains/informs on a particular subject – e.g. history books, science books, nature books.

How-to: step-by-step guides on how to achieve particular goals or solve problems – e.g. craft books, home maintenance guides.

Reference: used to look up answers to particular problems or questions – e.g. dictionaries, encyclopaedias, grammar guides, travel guides; not typically intended to be read cover-to-cover.

Illustrated: often beautifully printed coffee-table books, they include images, sketches and drawings – e.g. photography books, home design books.

Persuasive: aims to influence a reader’s opinion by presenting facts and details using the author’s own point of view to argue a point – e.g. political speeches, essays or editorials. 

Many manuscripts fall into more than one of these categories. For instance, a travel guide might fall into more than one category depending on how the author’s chosen to present the content. The author might be writing about her love of Sydney (persuasive), providing information (informational/reference) and including images (illustrated), while telling a story (narrative) about the city and its history.


While the best of editors can help you reveal your true story and assist you in illustrating it for your audience, preparation before you begin writing will help to deliver a better, more comprehensive manuscript. 

Choose a topic
This seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re writing about a topic because you think it will be popular then you have missed the point. The best non-fiction work is written from a place of passion – e.g. because someone is truly interested in the life cycle of an ant and wants to share that knowledge and interest. Loving your topic is only the starting point – but it’s a good starting point!

Consider your audience
Your tone and the level of information you provide will depend on your choice of audience. Who do you want to read your book? Will the life cycle of an ant be an informative book for children? Are you approaching it with humour? Do you want it to be illustrated with beautiful, glossy images of ants? 

Create a ‘contents list’
A plan helps you see where you’re going and stops you taking unnecessary detours. Try brainstorming your topic first to see where it takes you, then arrange these ideas into an initial contents list with headings and sub-headings. This will help you to keep a clear focus as you’re writing, so you can spend more time discovering valuable content and crafting the language and story.

Do your research
Even if you’re an expert in your field, research helps to develop and expand your ideas, and can also encourage the words to flow from your head onto the page. Try to do all your research upfront so everything you need is at your fingertips: e.g. transcribed interviews, photos, journals, sketches, diagrams, graphs. As you write you may discover that more research is required; when this happens, simply flag those areas and keep going. Come back to these sections at the end, when you have a complete first draft sitting in front of you. 

Find the narrative
Non-fiction books, similar to fiction, have a story to tell – they’re not simply a list of facts. Think about how you want to share this story. Will you tell it in a linear structure, or would a non-linear approach suit it better? How will you organise the facts and events to engage and maintain the reader’s interest?  For non-fiction to be compelling it needs to be true, but also interesting. Is there a hook to pull readers in and keep them reading?

What voice/point of view should you use?
It’s important to think upfront about the voice you wish to use to tell your story. What is the most appropriate voice for your manuscript? For instance, a memoir is usually written in first person, while a biography will use a third-person narration style. For instructional texts, it’s common to use second person. Although the voice can be changed at a later stage, it’s best to consider it in the early phase of manuscript development. Choosing the right voice has a huge impact on the way your work will be read and interpreted. 

Write great characters
Although the characters in your non-fiction are real people, they still need to be written in an engaging and illustrative way to engage the interest and empathy of your readers. Non-fiction authors can use the same tools as fiction writers to describe and develop their protagonists: e.g. show conflict between your characters; make sure there are plenty of dramatic moments; maybe even give your characters dialogue, depending on what type of book you’re writing. 

Find a new way of saying it
If what you’re writing has been said before, how might you say it in a different way?


You have written your non-fiction manuscript; now what? It’s important to remember that just because you have a completed manuscript sitting in front of you, it doesn’t mean it is finished. Editing your non-fiction manuscript is crucial to achieving a compelling, clear and successful book. Even if you intend to  employ a qualified book editor, you will get more out of the experience if you self-edit first, so your editor can focus on the finer points of your writing.

Here are a few pointers for self-editing your manuscript: 

  • Don’t begin with the climax. Give the reader a reason to keep reading.
  • Ask: why am I using this detail? When in doubt, cut it out.
  • Will a reader understand this reference twenty years from now?
  • Don’t work too hard with every sentence.
  • When using dialogue, stick with simple tags like ‘said’ or ‘says’. Avoid fancy attributions (recalls, retorts, replies) unless used sparingly.
  • Show, don’t tell. Let the reader discover things for themselves; don’t spoon-feed them emotions and thoughts. Let your writing take the reader on a journey.
  • Use the senses: hearing, seeing, feeling, smell, taste.
  • Read your work aloud. It’ll help you see where you lose rhythm, and where more information is needed. (It is worth reading a hard-copy version, as we tend to see more mistakes on the printed page than onscreen.)
  • Ask someone else to read your work (preferably someone from your intended audience): do they understand it? Is it interesting and accessible?
  • Cut unnecessary words: e.g. adverbs and adjectives. Let your nouns, verbs and dialogue do the work. Tighten your sentences, don’t waffle.
  • Make sure you’re using the active voice; change instances of passive voice to active.
  • Recheck all quotes and names: fact-check and fact-check again!
  • Make sure your voice and point of view remain consistent throughout the book.
  • Check all punctuation, spelling and grammar to the best of your ability. Don’t rely on Word to tell you what’s right and wrong.
  • Walk away from your work for a few days – or even a few weeks. When you get some distance from your book, you’ll find it easier to see errors, missing information, and sentences that simply don’t make sense.


When I worked in-house as a non-fiction editor I worked across the illustrated lifestyle list, which included books about craft, home and DIY, photography, nature, history and cookbooks. Each required a different approach in terms of editing. When I edit your non-fiction manuscript I will look at all the elements discussed above – and more. I’ll consider what you’ve written about, how you’ve written it, who your intended audience is, and who I’m editing for – e.g. will the book be self-published or do you intend to submit it to agents and publishers? 

The basic principles of editing non-fiction and fiction are the same; however, non-fiction has more layers that need to be taken into consideration. As a non-fiction editor you constantly need to question the content. Are these facts correct? Is more information needed to further illustrate a point? Are these images/graphs/indexes accurate and relevant? Could this information be presented in a way that’s more accessible to the reader – e.g. by using diagrams, boxed notes, a different structure, different heading styles? 

It’s not simply about the words on the page. When I edit non-fiction I’m thinking of how the finished book will look and feel. I’m thinking about your audience and how they might want to access the information. 

Non-fiction covers a vast range of topics and can be presented in many different ways, so when you ask ‘what does a non-fiction editor do?’ it’s kind of like asking how long a piece of string is! But that’s also the beauty of editing non-fiction: there’s so much scope to help the author share their content in a more meaningful and engaging way. As I see it, my job is about working with you, the author, to help you share your content in the way you desire, or the way a publishing house might desire it.

Kit Carstairs is the director of The Manuscript Agency, which focuses on the developmental needs of writers. Kit has a background working in-house and as a freelancer in book and magazine publishing, as well as academic research, marketing and broadcasting. She has almost a decade of experience working with a wide variety of content including: fiction (adult and children’s), general non-fiction, and academic and corporate content.

Our services Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:25:44 +0000 ebookedit is here to help you turn your manuscript into a finished book.

Our services are designed to provide you with the maximum amount of flexibility and control over your work throughout the self-publishing process.

Choose from these options:

Editing only
Work with an editor to refine the big-picture elements of your manuscript in a structural edit; and then choose whether or not you want to follow up with a copy edit, before you carry out your own file conversions.

File conversion only
Do your own editing, or use another editor, and send us your final text and cover art for conversion to ebooks and/or print-on-demand-ready PDF.

Full service
Work with our editor on your manuscript, then hand over the final text and cover art for conversion to ebooks and/or print-on-demand-ready PDF.

Ready to get started?
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Read our Testimonials page to find out what other indie authors think of our services.

Editing your book Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:25:13 +0000 ebookedit provides honest, professional feedback on your manuscript. When you work with our experienced editor, you’ll be getting the same level of input and feedback as you would with a traditional publishing company.

Structural edit
A structural edit can help you iron out problems related to plotting, structure, point of view, narrative voice, characterisation, themes, pace or setting.

Your editor will read your completed manuscript and provide a detailed report that identifies problem areas in the work and offers possible solutions to those problems.

DIY structural editing

Fees for structural editing
Up to 80,000 words: maximum fee of $1500
Up to 100,000 words: maximum fee of $1875
Up to 120,000 words: maximum fee of $2250
Up to 150,000 words: maximum fee of $2700

Copy edit
Once you’ve resolved any structural problems in the work, you might choose to have the manuscript copy edited.

A copy edit focuses on the details of your text, highlighting awkward or ambiguous phrasing, pointing out grammatical or spelling errors, flagging repetition, and checking for continuity and consistency.

At ebookedit, we edit onscreen in Word using track changes. We provide you with an edited Word document that shows suggested changes and comments, and you decide which changes to accept and which to reject. We also provide instructions on how to work with track changes in Word.

Fees for copy editing
Copy editing is based on a rate of $65 per hour. A copy edit might take between 25 and 80 hours, depending on the manuscript’s word count and how much editing is required. The cleaner your manuscript, the less time it will take to edit it.

Tips for cleaning up your manuscript before you send it to your copy editor

To work out how much it would cost to copy edit your manuscript, we ask you to email us 5000 words from the middle of your book and to provide the word count of the full manuscript. By editing that extract we’ll be able to give you a quote for the cost of copy editing the full manuscript.

Please note: we only copy edit manuscripts that have been through our structural editing process.

Ready to get started?
Email us at

Read our Testimonials page to find out what other indie authors think of our services.

File conversion Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:24:40 +0000 The easiest way to create an ebook is to take your finished Word file and load it onto a publishing platform like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Once the file’s uploaded, you can start selling right away. However, files that undergo this kind of automatic conversion process aren’t always the best quality. When you look at your ebook on an ereader or tablet, you may find it has formatting or other technical problems. And if you want to make your ebook available on multiple ebook-selling platforms (e.g. Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple iBooks) you will need to format your ebook file differently to meet the specific needs of each platform, which can entail a lot of work.

At ebookedit, we can do all that for you with our file conversion service. Our converted files give you a finished ebook that looks smart and professional and can be uploaded on all available platforms without the need for platform-specific file formatting. This saves you a lot of time and work, and ensures your ebook is consistent across the whole range of ebook and print book retailers.

All our files are professionally produced using the latest Adobe InDesign software. Our epub files are tested to Independent Digital Platform Forum standards, our Kindle files are validated by Amazon Kindle software and our print book files meet high quality digital printing requirements. If there is ever a technical problem with a file we supply to you, we will replace it free of charge.

We offer authors a range of ebook and print-on-demand file conversion services.

For ebooks, we provide two epub files and one mobi file to meet your needs and the needs of different publishing platforms. Epub files can be uploaded to etailers such as Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBooks and Kobo, or sold direct to readers through your own website. You can sell mobi files through your own website to readers for use on their Amazon devices.

For our print-on-demand-ready PDF files, we offer two popular templates. The Australian B format (198mm or 7.81″ high x 129mm or 5.06″ wide) is popular in Australia and the UK. It’s accepted by Australian printers, Ingram Spark and Amazon’s CreateSpace site. The American Trade format (228.6mm or 9″ high x 152.4mm or 6″ wide) is accepted by Ingram Spark, Lulu and CreateSpace. We can accommodate different print-on-demand sizes for an additional fee (see Conversion Fees below).

To use our file conversion service you need to supply your manuscript as a Microsoft Word document. Authors who use our ebookedit editing services receive a discount on all file conversion work.

Before you submit your file for conversion, you need to decide what type of file conversion  you require, e.g. mobi, epub and/ or print-on-demand-ready PDF. You’ll also need to provide a cover image. We can advise you on the technical requirements for cover images and if you don’t have a cover designer, we can recommend one for you.

Conversion fees
File conversion pricing depends on the file conversion required and the size of your book. We provide a discount for ebookedit customers who have used our editing services. A further discount is available to ebookedit customers who have used our copy editing service, because the file we provide as part of the copy edit has been properly styled for conversion.

Less than 80,000 words 80,000-150,000 words
Ebook package (mobi and epub) $     199 $     249
Print-on-demand-ready PDF (one standard format size) $     229 $     249
Print-on-demand-ready PDF (non-standard format size) $     249 $     269
Full conversion package 1 (ebook package + 1 standard PDF) $     399 $     449
Full conversion package 2 (ebook package + 1 non-standard PDF) $     419 $     469
Books with multiple images may attract additional costs. These will be discussed with you before work commences.
> 150,000 words price on application
Discounts on file conversion services 10% discount if structural edit done by ebookedit
30% discount if structural edit and copy edit done by ebookedit
Additional work requested following initial file conversion $25 per half hour, billed in half hour blocks

Ready to get started?

To get started, please email us at

Read our Testimonials page to find out what other indie authors think of our services.

Marketing your book Sun, 22 Mar 2015 00:23:59 +0000 As a self-published author, you need to be prepared to become your own marketing/PR person. There are many websites and blogs that offer excellent advice to self-published authors, but here are some tips to get you started.

Establish yourself within your writing community and your chosen genre
Join your local writers’ centre, get to know other authors, go to events (especially events related to your genre) and meet readers and enthusiasts. Forge relationships, and learn from others’ experiences.

Establish your online presence
Ideally you should start marketing yourself and your book before you’ve even finished writing it. Set up a website or a blog and start sharing your experiences as a writer. You might want to write about how the book’s progressing, what’s working and not working, the creative process, books you’re reading, writers you admire — anything that’s interesting and tells people about you and your work.

Create a buzz around your book’s publication
Think about how to create interest in your book’s upcoming publication. What are the points of difference from other books? What resonances does it have with bestsellers in the genre?

Tweet and blog before and around the publication of your book.

Some authors say that you should be ready to publish your next book as soon your current book is available to readers.

Hire a marketing/PR specialist
Another option for marketing your ebook is to hire a marketing/PR company experienced in promoting books and self-published authors. Some Australian-based PR professionals include: dmcprmedia, Noble WordsSecret Weapon Book Marketing.

BiblioCrunch, an online marketplace for self-published authors, offers its members a listing of publishing professionals, including marketing/PR specialists.

Selling books on your own website
If you’ve established a good web presence, it’s logical to sell your book through your own website. To do this you’ll need to have minimal internet skills (or a tech-minded friend) to set up your website as an etailer. You will also need an account with an online payment gateway (e.g. PayPal) to enable you to accept online payments.

If you’re selling ebooks through your own website, you will need to give customers the choice of downloading an epub file or a Kindle-compatible mobi file to suit their individual ereaders or tablets. At ebookedit, we provide you with both these formats as part of our ebook conversion package.

Selling through other websites
Regardless of whether or not you want to sell your book through your own website, you will definitely want to sell it through other websites to take advantage of their digital storefronts and make your book as discoverable as possible on the internet.

It seems almost every day there’s an announcement about some new site where you can sell your book. ebookedit provides you with files that allow you to sell your books through the most popular and established sites, and offer instructions on how to upload your books to those sites and information on the sites’ payment procedures.

For ebooks:

  • Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Smashwords
  • Kobo
  • Nook
  • Apple iBooks

For print books:

  • CreateSpace
  • Lulu

Ready to get started?
Email us at

Testimonials Sat, 21 Mar 2015 23:03:09 +0000 “When I decided to self-publish my psychological mystery The First Lie, I could have opted to do everything myself. I have a background in publishing (before the ebook revolution), and it’s now possible to do it all. Many indie authors go it alone but the products are often unprofessional, even embarrassing. I had no illusions that my book would make the bestseller list but I wanted to be proud of it. I decided to save my energy for marketing the first book and writing the next book and to use ebookedit for my editing and file conversion. What a relief to have them on my team! I’ve worked with editors in the past, and Nicola has a rare mix of four crucial qualities: positive support, an extensive understanding of fiction styles, truthfulness, and a high level of skill (particularly in structural editing). She has always found the gifts in my writing and reminded me of them. She has helped me wrestle with categorising the book and applied her advice appropriately to my genre. She has always pointed out the problems as she saw them even when I didn’t agree with her – with the result that I incubated a solution that lifted the book to a whole new level. And her ability to hold a hundred themes in her head and restructure a 90,000-word manuscript, transforming it from clunky to seamless, is truly awesome. Her support has given me the confidence to believe in my book throughout the redrafts and to self-publish after publishers decided against it. I cannot recommend her highly enough, especially to indie authors who might otherwise feel very alone. And Keith was there throughout the file conversion process, making my part in it easy and (almost) fun! It’s a very personal and supportive service they offer, just what I needed as I launched my precious work. I’ve booked them up for my next book.”   Virginia King, author of The First Lie and The Second Path

“I highly recommend ebookedit’s file conversion service. Keith gave me clear guidance on all the elements I needed to pull together to prepare Capital Misfits for ebook conversion. He then converted the book into formats suitable for the major ebook retailers. As part of the service I received a copy of ebookedit’s guide to independent publishing, which provided comprehensive information on all aspects of independent publishing, including the pros and cons of selling my ebook through particular platforms. Keith was incredibly professional, responsive and efficient, and had a wealth of publishing knowledge he was happy to share with me. I was extremely satisfied with the end product.”   Julie Koh, author of Capital Misfits

“Independent publishing is a team effort, and integral to that team is an editor who understands your vision and the story you want to tell. Nicola does both, and my books are so much better as a result.  Editing is not always pleasant, but working with Nicola is a gentle and collaborative process. Her goal is, quite simply, to help your book be the best that it can be. And when it comes to the actual process of publishing? It couldn’t be easier. Keith understands the business and takes the hassle and mystery out of file conversion. I wouldn’t trust my books to anyone other than ebookedit.” Joanne Tracey, author of Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry

“I can’t recommend Nicola and Keith from ebookedit highly enough. Nicola did an excellent job of structurally editing my manuscript. She had such a clear eye for the essence of my story that her suggestions were impossible to dismiss – what to enlarge upon, what to remove and where to rearrange. Rapidly my manuscript took on the shape of a book. I was also impressed by her copy edit, which gave my work a beaut flow and removed those many grammatical errors I was unfamiliar with. She is a most generous, thoughtful and positive editor, especially for a first-time author to work with. Keith wonderfully transcribed my book into a professional print and ebook format. I loved the way he interwove my paintings and photographs and was helpful in my choices of colourings and fonts.”   Fabia Tory, author and illustrator of A Book of Not Forgetting

Lisa Heidke The Callahan Split

“Ebookedit edited, produced and published my sixth novel, The Callahan Split. It was an incredibly rewarding experience. Nicola O’Shea and Keith Stevenson were professional, enthusiastic and encouraging every step of the way and I was thrilled with the final result. I highly recommend the service and will definitely be using ebookedit again.”   Lisa Heidke, The Callaghan Split




“Nicola was exhilarating to work with. I felt for the first time that someone had read my novel and really understood it ‒ could see what I was trying to achieve. Nicola was able to deconstruct the book’s components, and provide insightful tips on where to deepen and simplify the plot and characters with incredible perception. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with Nicola on my next novel.” Viv Ronnebeck, author of The Ignition Effect




“Although I’m a published author, the formatting side is completely foreign to me. Ebookedit did a great job to a high standard. They communicated well throughout the process, and made it easy with their professionalism, reliability, and fast turnaround. If only everything in publishing was this easy! I thoroughly recommend them to any author.”   Mitchell Hogan, author of A Crucible of Souls



“To all established and budding writers who believed that achieving self-publishing for the first time would surely be easier than designing a rocket-ship to the moon, and who are now investigating the ebookedit site because they have realised otherwise: let me assure you that you have arrived at the right launch-point. In getting book one of my trilogy ready to publish, I spent months slowly ticking a hundred to-do boxes, but the last few ‒ preparing the manuscript for the many ebook and print-book variations for publishing platforms and my author website ‒ had more hair-pulling complexities than all the others combined. Ebookedit created all variations in a single package, assisted with and pulled together all the necessary components into the right places, including ISBNs, CiPs, copyright, front and back matters, cover inclusions, logo placements and more. I take comfort in that every variation meets the exacting criteria of the many platforms I intend to print and publish on. I had only one ‘complaint’: I actually wrote to ebookedit that I considered their fees too low for the amazing amount of time and worry taken off my shoulders, allowing me to get back to doing what I do best ‒ writing another novel! I am now ready to push the button for the launch …”   Rickard Isachsen, author of Isabella, The Legend of the Little General

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What is a structural edit, and will it improve your book? Fri, 09 Jan 2015 01:33:10 +0000 A professional editor approaches a manuscript in two stages. The first stage – the structural edit – focuses on big-picture elements such as narrative voice and point of view, characterisation, plot, story structure, pace. The second stage – the copy edit – is all about the details of the text, looking at sentence structure, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and fact-checking.

So what does a structural edit look like? While copy editing takes place within the body of the manuscript, with the editor suggesting changes to the text on a word-by-word level, a structural edit usually comes to the author in the form of a letter.

In that letter, the editor identifies the work’s strengths and weaknesses, and offers suggestions about how the author might address any problem areas.

Depending on how developed the manuscript is, the editor might also offer feedback on each chapter or scene, suggesting places where the author might add or cut material.

It’s then up to the author to think through the editor’s feedback and decide whether or not to implement any of their suggested changes.

The structural editing process can sound quite abstract until you’ve experienced it first-hand, but there are always common elements that shape the feedback: a series of questions the editor asks about each manuscript.

You could use these questions yourself to think through the shape and structure of your story, the depth of your characterisation, the mechanics of your plot, before you send your manuscript to a professional reader or editor.

  • Do you know what genre you’re writing in?
  • Do you understand the conventions of the genre and the expectations of your readers?
  • Do you know who your readers are?
  • Have you chosen to write in first person, third person or second person? Or a mix of POVs?
  • Does the POV jump around between characters (‘head-hopping’)?
  • Does your story have a clear main character?
  • Does your main character have a developed story arc?
  • Do your characters do things? Or are they static or passive?
  • Do you have a clear, strong main plot that forms the backbone of the book?
  • Do all the pieces of the plot fit together smoothly?
  • Is there anything left unresolved at the end of the book?
  • Does your opening scene set up your main character and the purpose of their story in an engaging, compelling way?
  • Does your novel come to a satisfying, powerful ending?
  • How long are your chapters? (Ideally, they should be fairly consistent in length.)
  • Does each chapter move the story forward in a meaningful, active way?
  • Are there places where the story drags? (e.g. a character spends too much time thinking instead of acting)
  • Or places where it races along too quickly?
  • Is there background information about characters or research material (info dumps) that could be removed, or broken up and worked in gradually?
  • Do main events and/or plot twists happen in narrative summary or in actual scenes?
  • Do you have a good balance between narrative text and dialogue?
  • Does the work have a strong sense of place?
  • Have you included sensual descriptions (sight, smell, sound)?
Scene breakdown

A useful tool for structural editing is the scene breakdown: a list of the key events in each scene and the characters involved in them.

Use your scene breakdown to follow each main plot line through the novel. Look out for gaps, or for where a story line fades away without resolution. Check that the different story lines are well-balanced, that one isn’t taking over from the others. Trace your main characters’ story arcs through the novel and pinpoint areas that could be developed further.

Will a structural edit improve your novel?

Receiving professional editorial feedback can be a confronting process. Most authors find it difficult to hear criticism of their work, no matter how tactfully it’s presented. Despite that, I’ve never heard an author say that getting feedback from an editor has been a waste of their time or resources. And once you’ve got past your initial response to your editor’s feedback, you’ll likely find that the scenes she’s highlighted for further consideration are those you weren’t happy with yourself.

You may not agree with everything your editor suggests, but even disagreeing with her can help you find your own way to resolve a problem in the manuscript. In fact, for an editor the very best outcome of a structural edit is when the author finds his or her own way to fix problems the editor has identified. This type of solution is usually more organic and pleasing – which can only be good for the book and its readers.

See here for more information on ebookedit’s editing services.

Related posts

Copy editing tips for authors

Meaningful feedback and how to get it


Author JJ Gadd on digital publishing and marketing Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:47:08 +0000 JJ Gadd is a speculative fiction author, freelance editor and journalist with a keen interest in the future of publishing and staying at the forefront of new developments in digital production.

Recently we spoke to JJ about her work and in particular her approach to digital publishing and marketing.

Tell us a little about the Lunation series and how it’s particularly suited to ebook publication.

The Lunation seriesLunation, Earthshine, Lunelocked, Maraluna and Cloudstalker – is a story of seven unlikely companions out to rescue a woman trapped in the moon. I signed the publishing deal with HarperCollins’s Impulse digital-only imprint halfway through writing it, and at that point decided to make the books ‘digitally native’: that is to say, because the books are read in a digital environment it enabled me to use hyperlinks to give the reader some freedom in choosing the order in which they read some of the chapters, and if indeed they would like to read all of the chapters.

I explain this system as ‘core’ and ‘choice’ chapters: at a choice chapter juncture, readers can choose whether to read each character’s experience or just one – or none, and skip all the choice chapters and continue reading the core chapters. I like empowering people to have a say in how they’d like to receive the information, but at the same time I didn’t want to surrender complete control, as in a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. And if you’re time poor, skipping the choice chapters means you get to read the book a whole lot quicker (and it will still make sense).

The Choose Your Own Adventure Twitter game is fantastic! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Twitter used that way. How did it come about and what reactions are you getting?

Full credit there to the brilliant Brendan Mays, digital marketing manager at HarperCollins. He was inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure approach of the Lunation series to take a similar approach to marketing. It’s called Choose Your Own Lunation (#CYOLunation). Players follow a series of tweets that tell a story, but they’re given choices along the way. The choices they make determine which character from the book they most resemble, and ideally encourages them to read the book to find out more about that character. Of course I loved this idea too, and it was fun to work on the Twitter stories, which provided a chance to give extra insight into the chosen characters. In terms of how it’s going, I haven’t heard solid figures yet but anecdotally it’s been well received.

You’re writing a series of articles for Digital Book World about how indie authors need to embrace the opportunities that advances in digital publishing offer. What are the most important things indie authors should do?

I would absolutely encourage indie writers to explore some of the opportunities for creating interactive content afforded by digital publishing. Readers are becoming more sophisticated, so there’s increasing scope for creating more three-dimensional, multi-platform, multi-media work.  That said, you have to be well aware of the market you’re targeting – not all readerships are receptive and many find it distracting (“I read books because I like to read, not watch, listen or play”, etc).

Whether to publish print-only, digital-only, or both (print-on-demand) is a vexed question, and the answer lies somewhere in the matrix of your budget, marketability and what’s going to best suit your readership. When it comes to creating enhanced ebooks, one of the things I think is challenging for indie authors is simply knowing what’s out there – let alone having the time to learn how to use those tools.

There are plenty of options for creating iPad-only books sold via apps – Zoetic Press’s Lithomobilus, for example – and that’s assuming you eschew Apple’s own iBooks Author. There are quite a few start-ups experimenting with digital technology that overcomes the hurdle of working across digital platforms (Kindle, iPad, Kobo, Android etc). One of them is Beneath the Ink, which allows you to add subtle links to audio, video and references within the text without the reader needing to be online for access. Another that’s just in the process of launching is eBooksinMotion. A more specialist alternative is InDesign.

There’s a push for web browsers to be used as a publishing tool but I’m not yet on board for that one, though I do think it’s got potential. Maybe once I get a better internet connection in my remote location I’ll become more of a fan. At the moment it would drive me nuts to read via a web browser – it could take minutes just to turn the page!

What are you working on next?

I’d really like to work on an app, as they currently allow the greatest scope for reader interactivity, but as apps can currently only be accessed on limited devices I’ll hold off and see how they evolve over the next few years.

So my next project will involve pushing the envelope as far as I can with the technology that does currently extend across a number of devices. I’m interested in exploring some of the platforms mentioned above and using them to invent different ways to deliver the written word and tell a story.

I get a real buzz out of the challenge and complexity of managing multiple character and plot strands in a way that the story will still make sense if the reader accesses some, none or all of them – to me it’s like writing amplified, if that makes any sense! So I will attempt a story that is probably complex to create but simple to read, interactive on many levels, and, hopefully, an enjoyable word adventure for readers.


Find out more about JJ Gadd and the Lunation Series on her website


Copy editing tips for authors Thu, 07 Aug 2014 00:48:11 +0000 Copy editing is usually the most expensive part of the editing process because it requires your editor to read every word and every punctuation mark in your manuscript, often more than once.

Here are some things you can do yourself before you send your manuscript to a copy editor.

Always run a spell-check over your manuscript before you send it to a reader or editor; and repeat the process each time you make revisions to the text. Don’t do global changes as it increases the risk of introducing new errors into your manuscript; instead, look at each spelling query the program throws up and make each decision individually.

If you’re not using American style and spelling for your book, you’ll want to change the language setting to Australian English: e.g. colour rather than color; travelling rather than traveling; organise rather than organize.

Spell-check won’t pick up words that sound the same but have different meanings: e.g. they’re, their, there; discreet, discrete; bear, bare; pour, pore, poor; it’s, its. You’ll need to read for these separately; or you could search for the most common homophone errors and check you’ve used the correct spelling each time.

Replace double spaces after closing punctuation with a single space.

Are you using single or double quote marks for dialogue? Either is fine, but make sure they’re consistent throughout the manuscript.

Check you’ve not missed any full stops: at the end of a sentence, a paragraph, or inside quote marks.

Filler words, or dead wood
Words like actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally can usually be cut from a sentence without affecting the meaning.

Take out started to/began to verb phrases: e.g. she started to read the letter aloud; he began to run after the dog. Usually these can be removed, making the action verb stronger: she read the letter aloud; he ran after the dog.

Similarly, replace a weak verb + adverb with a strong verb: Angrily she set the cup and saucer onto the table could become She slammed the cup and saucer onto the table.

Cut adverbs that repeat the sense of the verb they’re attached to: the TV blared loudly; she shrieked piercingly.

Some writers advise on cutting all –ly adverbs from your work, especially when they’re used as dialogue tags: e.g. ‘I’m not going to let you get away with that,’ he said grimly.

Do you have lots of stage directions: e.g. characters moving around a scene, changing location, making tea or coffee, getting dressed, entering or leaving rooms/cars? Too much mundane detail slows the pace of a scene.

Look out for repetition of words or phrases in the same sentence or paragraph.

Many authors have a favourite word or phrase that may end up being overused in the manuscript.

Avoid overuse of italics for emphasis. And take out all – or almost all – your exclamation marks. If your writing is strong and confident, you won’t need these props.

Read your dialogue aloud so you can hear the rhythm of your characters’ speech. If the dialogue sounds stilted, try using fragmented rather than full sentences; and replace full verb forms with contractions (e.g. don’t, can’t, haven’t, I’d, they’ll).

Consider breaking up overly long sentences, or long blocks of dialogue. Have other characters interrupt; or use a sentence of narrative text to break up the dialogue.

Avoid overusing characters’ names in dialogue, especially when characters know one another well.

A lot of dialect in a manuscript can become off-putting for readers: e.g. Wha’ d’ya mean, git away from ’em? Instead, use syntax and rhythm to suggest an accent or some other aspect of a character’s background.

Check the dialogue itself conveys the emotion you want to get across; resist the temptation to explain it to the reader: e.g. ‘You can’t be serious,’ she said in astonishment.

Have you stuck to simple speech tags – e.g. said, asked – or do you have a list of alternative verbs running down the page? Try replacing them all with ‘said’, then take out the ‘saids’ you don’t need because it’s clear from the context who’s speaking.

Thoughts don’t need quote marks because they’re not spoken out loud.

Styling your Word document
Avoid using hard returns to insert space into a manuscript; instead, insert a line break at the end of each chapter.

Rather than using tab marks or spaces to indent the first line of a new paragraph, use the paragraph function in Word and select ‘First line’ in the Indentation option.

Keep your Word styles very simple: e.g. Normal for body text; Heading 1 for chapter titles; Heading 2 for subheadings.

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Indie author Toni Brisland talks about publishing and promoting books for children Fri, 20 Jun 2014 09:18:22 +0000 Australian author Toni Brisland writes books for children. She has published two novels in her DemiChat series (a Sherlock Holmes spoof), with a third due for release this year. The first, DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery, is on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge Lists for Years 5–6 and selected readers in Years 7–9, and on the South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenge List for Years 5–6. Toni published her first picture book, What Now Baby Bears?, in September 2013; and her second, The Tree House, in February 2014.

You’ve written a series of books for children (DemiChat and the Kent Street Mystery; DemiChat and the Lost Mummy; and DemiChat and the City of Gold) and also some stand-alone picture books (What Now Baby Bears? and The Tree House). Have you found any differences between promoting and selling a series as opposed to stand-alone books?

Toni: Firstly, can I say that my main market is primary schools and this influences how I promote and sell. But, yes, I have found differences between promoting and selling a series as opposed to stand-alone books.

demichat-kentstreet-ebeI think a stand-alone book has to be promoted on its own merits and for me this means linking it into the curriculum in my marketing. What Now Baby Bears? is about the environmental theme of animals and humans living in harmony, and The Tree House is about a young girl with a disability. Both books give teachers scope to structure a lesson around the books and tie them into curriculum. I’ve had feedback that What Now Baby Bears? has also been used to teach children about road safety; and that The Tree House has been read to classes to demonstrate the special learning needs of some children in their schools.

With a series, an audience starts to build up and it’s a little easier to promote. When the second book in the DemiChat series came out I went back to the schools that had purchased the first book. Having said that, a children’s series is a little different to an adult series where the first book ends with a cliff hanger, forcing readers to buy the next book to find out what happens. I think with children’s series, it’s important to continue the themes and creating reader empathy with the characters, so the children want to read more, but the books also have to stand alone in the sense that the story has come to a satisfactory conclusion. When I talk at schools I’ve been surprised that children will buy the second book in the DemiChat series without having read the first one, because the second book is about Egypt and mummies and the ghostly guardian of the tomb of the last Pharaoh of Egypt. That story line appeals to children more than the first book’s story line.

You’ve been very successful in getting your books into schools and libraries. Could you tell us how you achieved that? And do you have any advice for other authors hoping to do the same?

Toni: I’ve volunteered as a director or committee member for the Children’s Book Council of Australia across the three levels of the organisation (National Board, NSW State, and Northern Sydney Sub-branch Region) at different times over the past six years, and through that work I’ve met many teacher librarians and other authors. The reason I volunteered initially was to give back to the children’s literature community because in 2005 I won the CBCA NSW Mentorship Award and I was just so grateful to the CBCA NSW for believing in my writing. I attempted to be traditionally published for five years before opting to be partner-published in 2010.

demichat-mummy-ebeBoth the CBCA and the teacher librarians I’ve met have been supportive of my career and have given me the opportunity to visit schools and sell my books, to the schools and to their students. Teacher librarians have even written about my books on the OZTL-Net (an online network for teacher librarians) without me being aware that was going to happen. I’m very grateful for their support.

Recently, an author emailed to ask me how I get my books into schools because she wanted to do the same. I explained about volunteering with the CBCA and volunteering in schools, and she replied that she’s too busy. I understand that, but my advice for authors hoping to get into schools is that they have to give to the school community first, either by meeting teacher librarians through the CBCA, volunteering to run workshops or to speak in schools for free, participating in school events, or joining programs like Books in Homes that take authors into schools.

Public libraries are a different matter. I really don’t know how my books have found their way into libraries. I did an advertising flyer for my first book in 2010, which was inserted into APLIS, the Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services magazine, but that’s all I’ve done. Of course, I’ve sent copies to the National Library of Australia and the Lu Rees Archives, both of which are both repositories for children’s books written by Australian authors, and also the Mitchell Library in NSW, which collects books by NSW authors.

Writing and producing books for children has different challenges from publishing books for adults. How did you decide which age group to write for, and then work out the right language level for those readers? Did you talk to other authors, or read any books on the subject?

Toni: It wasn’t really a ‘decision’. I didn’t ever think of writing for any other group but children. My first career was as a high school English and History teacher up to Year 12, and I’m a trained school counsellor with an arts degree with a major in psychology and a graduate diploma in counselling psychology.  As part of all that study, amongst other things, I learned how to test for reading age.

I do write adult poetry, but it is more of an intellectual pursuit to keep my writing tight and to balance my writing for children. I tried writing poetry for children but the concepts I want to write about in my poetry babybears-ebeare too adult for a child to understand.

Children’s books often have internal illustrations as well as cover artwork. How did you go about finding an illustrator for your books? Were you happy with the way the illustrations turned out? Do you have any advice for other authors about working with illustrators?

Toni: Every book’s journey with its illustrator has been different. With my first DemiChat book the publisher choose the illustrator. The publisher’s concept of the book was different to mine and the illustrations took on a cartoonish style. For the second DemiChat book, because it’s available as an ebook and print-on-demand print book, I wanted coloured digital illustrations and my first illustrator told me he was unable to do that. I made the tough decision to change publisher, illustrator and illustration style, and chose Cheryl De Los Reyes Cruz from the publisher’s list of about fifteen illustrators. I love Cheryl’s work and am really happy with her artistic flair and the new dimension she has brought to the series. The ebook version of my first DemiChat book has been re-illustrated by Cheryl.

The same specialist children’s partner-publisher published my two picture books. I chose Michele Gaudion for The Tree House after researching The Style File, a showcase of Australian illustrators. This book went into production before my Bear book, but it took longer to complete and publish. For What Now Baby Bears? I chose Emma Stuart from the publisher’s list of illustrators.

The advice I would offer to authors working with illustrators is that an illustrated book is a team effort, fifty-fifty. The book may start with the author, but the illustrator feels that the book is theirs as well and they need the creative space to illustrate their own interpretation of the story. If given this space, illustrators can create something wonderful that will only enhance an author’s work. Also, I like it when the publisher manages the illustrator and the book design team because of the professionalism this brings to the finished product.

You’ve published five books now as an independent author. If you were able to go back to your very first book, what advice would you give yourself as a new author?  

tree-house-ebeToni: I would tell myself:

  • Don’t change your name. Having a pen name (Toni Brisland: Brisland is my married name) and a real name (my birth name: Antonette Diorio) is going to cause an identity crisis both within yourself and within the children’s literary community, not to mention at the bank and with the family!
  • Do a marketing and advertising course before you publish, and allocate most of your budget to marketing and advertising. Remember: you can’t sell a secret.
  • The Pareto principle applies: you’ll only be writing 20 per cent of the time, and running the business of writing 80 per cent of the time. So don’t think you can blissfully sit at home and write. It’s not going to happen like that.
  • Don’t expect to make money from the business of writing. Be sure you are doing it because you love it. (And, luckily, I do.)

You can read more about Toni Brisland and her books at her website. Or visit her at her Facebook page.